Archive for Holidays

Christmas Promise

On a long-ago Christmas Eve, I did my last visit to a patient as a hospice chaplain.

I was honoring a promise.

All I did was hold a hand in a dark bedroom while storm clouds trudged across the night sky. In the nearby houses, seasonal lights flickered in the rain, inflatable Santas and snowmen waved their greetings, and outdoor ornaments sparkled as the gusting wind teased them.

In the patient’s room, it was quiet.

In the patient’s room, she now mostly slept.

I’d already started working as a church’s “new minister.” It had been a tough decision to leave hospice—an intimate ministry—for a mid-sized church with hundreds of members, a sprawling budget, and endless obligations. So many decisions are a combination of guesses, selfish and selfless reasons, and trying to do the right thing at the right time of life. I didn’t know then (and I don’t know now all these years later) if it was the best choice . . . but it was my faithful risk to say “yes” to serve a congregation.

Some of those “endless obligations” during the first days of church work were the Christmas Eve services. There I would preach. There I’d read the ancient stories of Jesus’ birth. There I’d seek to connect an old, familiar tale to the daily hurts and hopes of modern folks. There I’d help a congregation light candles and proclaim the “light of the world.” Read More →

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Holidays: the Best and Worst Season of the Year

The season of the empty chair . . .

The season of the empty chair . . .

When a writer writes, a question that accompanies every effort is: who is your audience?

With this being the time of Thanksgiving (and the unofficial plunge into the other end-of-the-year holidays), I write for one person.

She hurts: in her bones, in her heart, in her soul. She would like to vanish right now, and reappear sometime in January after the interminable holidays are finished. He hates the thought of “celebrating.” There’s nothing he’s grateful for, and spending a day sharing a table with friends and family for “thanks” and “giving” seems a cruel joke.

After all, the wonderful person I am writing to is ill. But she doesn’t have a cold or the flu. She’s ill with a life limiting disease. Ill as in now or soon she will enter into hospice care.

After all, the overwhelmed person I am writing to is a caregiver. This time, for him, the giving of care will be far more than providing chicken noodle soup or hot tea. His loved one is dying.

After all, the precious person I am writing to—and there are so many in this season—is grieving. Every day has a dose of pain. Holidays increase those “doses” to unbearable levels.

How can we celebrate a holiday when facing death?

How can we celebrate a holiday when grieving?

How can we celebrate in the season of the empty chair? Read More →

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The Third Gift of Christmas

stained glassChristmas is a difficult season for someone whose doctor has announced, “I think you should consider hospice.”

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm, all is bright.

Christmas is a difficult season when caring for a dying loved one . . . or being the one cared for.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Christmas is a difficult season if it’s the first holidays without a beloved child or spouse or parent.

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

In my neighborhood, lights twinkle along the darkening streets. Santas and snowmen and manger scenes sprawl across lawns. Families gather around tables. Colleagues join for parties at work. Children tremble with excitement and parents weary of telling the kids to be good. In cathedral’s large and sanctuary’s small, millions will meet on Christmas Eve, singing the familiar carols.

But your world is crushed. Read More →

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